March 23, 2023

Congressman Castro Leads 26 Members in Introducing the Transparency in Government Contracts Act

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) led 26 members of the U.S. House of Representatives in introducing the Transparency in Government Contracts Act, legislation that would support Congressional efforts to improve contracting opportunities for businesses owned by minorities, women, and people with disabilities by requiring the federal government to disaggregate the contracts it awards to businesses owned by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals by race, ethnicity, and gender, and disclose this information to the public.

“In San Antonio and across the country, small businesses are crucial drivers of job creation and community wealth. The Biden administration’s practice of releasing disaggregated data on federal contracting awards has provided important data on the federal government’s progress in expanding equitable access to contracting opportunities, and this data transparency should continue under future administrations. The Transparency in Government Contracts Act will help Congress ensure that no community is expected to subsidize their own exclusion from contracts paid for with taxpayer dollars,” said Congressman Castro.

“The U.S. Black Chambers is a proud supporter of Congressman Castro’s efforts to bring forth transparency into the federal procurement marketplace. In Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Black-owned small firms only received 1.67% of available set-aside dollars according to recent disaggregated data. While these figures are unacceptable, they shed light on the disparities Black contractors continue to face in procurement endeavors, and without this data, there is no rationale for bringing forth change to federal procurement processes. A lack of access to disaggregated data, especially for small contractors, creates a cycle of underutilization for those firms that bear the burden of this disparity. We look forward to the intentionality, and accountability that the Transparency in Government Contracts Act will bring to the federal marketplace and will continue working with and calling upon policymakers to create more pathways to opportunity through government contracts for Black firms,” said Ron Busby, Sr. President and CEO, U.S. Black Chambers, Inc.

"Data disaggregation has been one of National ACE's key policy priorities for many years now, and we are heartened to see recent efforts to address this crucial need. The AAPI community is one of the most economically divided populations, with the top 10% earning as much as 10.7x more than those in the bottom 10%. Any step towards data disaggregation is essential to capture the needs of the most disadvantaged subpopulations in our country, and to ensure that support is reaching those who need it the most. We look forward to seeing this bill, introduced by Congressman Joaquin Castro, come to fruition and address the invisibility of minority-owned businesses in the data," said Chiling Tong, President and CEO of the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce and Entrepreneurship (National ACE).

“On behalf of the Hispanic business community, I applaud Congressman Castro and the Transparency in Government Contracts Act as a tangible way to advocate for the interests of Hispanic, and all minority, business owners. Through increased oversight in how SBA contracts are awarded, we bring more transparency to government contracts and better position the more than 5 million Hispanic-owned businesses to be awarded more business—one of the proven ways to help companies grow and scale,” said Ramiro Cavazos, President and CEO of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

According to Census Bureau estimates, approximately 20 percent of U.S. employer businesses and more than 32 percent of U.S. non-employer businesses are minority-owned. While the federal government spent more than $700 billion on contracting in Fiscal Year 2022, less than ten percent of those contracts have historically gone to minority-owned firms. Under the previous administration, the SBA released data on contracts awarded to small disadvantaged businesses, service-disabled veteran owned small businesses, women-owned small businesses, and HUBZone (Historically Underutilized Business Zone) businesses, but did not disaggregate awards further. In 2021, the Biden administration began to release disaggregated data of federal contract spending that included information on the race/ethnicity of business owners.

Congressman Castro has long worked to expand contracting opportunities for businesses owned by minorities, women, and people with disabilities. In 2021, he called on San Antonio’s public entities to expand diverse contracting opportunities after his office collected data showing that collectively, less than 20 percent of contracts with San Antonio public entities were going to minority or women-owned firms. The following year, he secured more than half a million dollars in federal funding for the HUB Government Contracting Academy at the University of Texas San Antonio, which helps Historically Underutilized Businesses (HUBs) win and complete government contracts. Congressman Castro is also closely involved with an ongoing project led by the Aspen Latino Business & Entrepreneurship Initiative, Drexel University, and the San Antonio Area Foundation to develop a procurement playbook with best practices for diversifying public contracting.

Original co-sponsors for the Transparency in Government Contracts Act include Reps. Jill Tokuda (HI-02), Jan Schakowsky (IL-09), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Al Green (TX-09), Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Raúl M. Grijalva (AZ-07), Greg Casar (TX-35), Melanie Stansbury (NM-01), Joyce Beatty (OH-03), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), Mark Takano (CA-39), Ted Lieu (CA-36), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-ATL), Yvette Clarke (NY-09), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Shontel Brown (OH-11), Barbara Lee (CA-12), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Lizzie Fletcher (TX-07), Jonathan L. Jackson (IL-01), Delia Ramirez (IL-03), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), André Carson (IN-07), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (CA-37), and Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18).

The legislation is endorsed by the U.S. Black Chambers, the National Asian/Pacific Islander American Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship, and the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

The bill text for the Transparency in Government Contracts Act can be viewed here.